Cooperatives Europe has released a new report which showcases 21 best practice examples from co-operatives in Africa.
Building Inclusive Enterprises in Africa was produced following a conference that Cooperatives Europe (the European cross-sectoral organisation representing cooperative enterprises) and ICA Africa jointly organised within the ICA Global Conference in Cape Town in 2013. Cooperatives Europe and the Co-operative College drafted the document based on the contributions from experts of the Cooperatives Europe Development Platform.
“With increasing interest in the co-operative model for development, evidence of real life co-operative achievements also becomes increasingly important,” said Simon Parkinson, chief executive and principal of the Co-operative College. “Studying these success stories enables us to highlight the diverse ways in which co-operative organisations contribute to an inclusive and sustainable development process and to replicate successful practices.”
The case studies in the report cover four themes: empowering young people and women; empowering communities in rural areas; co-operation among co-operatives – building strong networks; and innovative co-operative models.
One case study looks at the Kigayaza Youth Cooperative in Uganda, which has over 100 farmer-members, mainly aged between 25-30. Members work together to sell produce, develop projects and share information through training and meetings which, says the report, members see as a way to build each other’s knowledge.
Meanwhile in Lesotho, the Rise and Shine student co-operative, savings and credit, has 40 members aged between 15 and 21 who are all pupils ay Hoek High School. Their main activity is the provision of savings and credits to students who are members, and to teachers at the school.
Another positive example is given from the Congo region in central Africa, where civil war and unrest made selling coffee to local markets impossible, and forced coffee growers to leave their lands, or smuggle their coffee to Rwanda. In this area, the Sopacdi Co-operative is working to bring Congo-grown coffee into global markets. Set up in 2001 with 274 members, the co-op now has 3,600 member from different ethnic groups. 20% of members are women. Sopacdi coffee gained Fairtrade certification in 2011, and benefits of the Fairtrade premium have already included new roofs for members’ houses, a coffee washing station (the first in the country for forty years) and training programmes to enable farmers to adopt more sustainable practices.
Other case studies looking at the Ghana Cooperative Credit Union Association, Zambia National Farmers Union and the National Cooperative Housing union, Kenya, show how “even at the local level, working as part of a network has benefits for both the enterprise and its members,” says the report.
One of the innovative co-operative models looked at is the Sodla Sonke Cooperative, a workers’ co-operative that offers cleaning, gardening and recycling services to offices and property in the Walmer Township of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Sodla Sonke means ‘we are all going to benefit’.
The co-operative, which has 11 members and employs 39 workers regularly, serves a 4km square area that is home to 70,000 people. The area still suffers the legacy of apartheid, with unemployment at 80% and high rates of crime, substance abuse and HIV infection.
“The organisation tenders for cleaning contracts with companies, institutions and government tenders, and also earns a small amount from a recycling project created together with the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders,” says the report. As well as providing a livelihood for its members and working with community initiatives, the co-operative offers a vital service in a country where state provision of recycling and waste collection is “frequently absent”.
“The heart-warming stories detailed in this paper are an encouraging sign that the co-operative movement is gaining ground and strength in African countries,” said Dr Chiyoge Buchekabiri Sifa, regional director of the ICA Africa Regional Office. “These collaborations are crucial to encourage the sharing of knowledge and experience between co-operators of diverse backgrounds and to bring them closer in addressing common challenges.”
Marc Noel, co-operative development manager at Cooperatives Europe, added: “Where an enabling environment exists, cooperatives and other civil society organisations empower people to take charge of their own development. Policy makers should help to create the conditions for participative and inclusive initiatives like the ones described in our study so that they can be easily realised and replicated.”
A second report is due to be released on co-operatives in Latin America, following a seminar jointly organised by Cooperatives Europe and Cooperatives of the Americas.
In this article
- case studies
- Co-operative College
- Cooperatives Europe
- Credit union
- Dr Chiyoge Buchekabiri Sifa
- Internationa Co-operative Alliance
- Kigayaza Youth Cooperative
- Marc Nöel
- Rise and Shine
- Simon Parkinson
- Sopacdi Co-operative
- The Alliance
- North America
- Top Stories